Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Biologists Find New Environmental Threat In North American Lakes

Date:
November 28, 2008
Source:
Queen's University
Summary:
A new and insidious environmental threat has been detected in North American lakes. Boreal forest lakes suffer from 'aquatic osteoporosis.'

Water flea, Daphnia, is known to be a key component of many aquatic foodwebs.
Credit: Shelley Arnott

A new and insidious environmental threat has been detected in North American lakes by researchers from Queen's and York universities.

Related Articles


Along with scientists from several Canadian government laboratories, the team has documented biological damage caused by declining levels of calcium in many temperate, soft-water lakes.

Calling the phenomenon "aquatic osteoporosis," Queen's PhD candidate Adam Jeziorski, lead author of the study, notes that calcium is an essential nutrient for many lake-dwelling organisms. "Once calcium declines below a certain threshold, some keystone species can no longer reproduce," he says. "These species and other organisms that feed on them are endangered."

The study is published November 27 in the journal Science.

The researchers examined a water flea, Daphnia, known to be a key component of many aquatic foodwebs. Having identified the calcium levels that would damage Daphnia in a laboratory setting, they worked with government scientists to assemble hundreds of "water quality time series" from across the province, explains Biology professor Norman Yan from York University, the Canadian research lead on the threat to aquatic life of calcium decline. "Our hope was to determine if damage was already occurring at key sites, and then see how common these conditions were across the province," he says.

However, calcium decline occurred in many lakes before people knew about the problem and monitoring programs had been put in place. By studying tiny fossils and other indicators in sediment accumulated at the bottom of each lake, Queen's paleoecologist professor John Smol, Canada Research Chair in Environmental Change, and his colleagues were able to reconstruct environmental trends over the past 200 years. The researchers found that key invertebrate species were disappearing in the lakes with declining calcium levels, often starting in the 1970s.

Linking the problem to the long-term effects of acid rain on forest soils, as well as to logging and forest re-growth, the researchers note that, despite signs of chemical recovery from recent reductions in sulphur dioxide emissions, lower calcium levels may delay the biological recovery of lakes from acidification. "This has important management implications," says team member Dr. Andrew Paterson of the Ontario Ministry of the Environment and adjunct professor at Queen's University. "It was a combination of experimental work, paleoecological research and long-term monitoring that helped to identify this emerging threat," he adds.

The authors conclude that the phenomenon of calcium decline is causing widespread transformation of aquatic food webs in boreal lakes in North America, and in other acid-sensitive regions of the globe. While their work focuses on the water flea Daphnia, they note that all life in lakes requires calcium, and many creatures including crayfish, mollusks and fish have quite high calcium demands. They are all at risk, say the researchers, but we don't yet know if calcium levels have fallen to the point of damage.

"This is all very worrisome," concludes Dr. Smol, recipient of the 2004 NSERC Herzberg Gold Medal as Canada's top scientist and co-director of Queen's Paleoecological Environmental Assessment and Research Laboratory (PEARL). "The good news is that we have found the 'miner's canary' in the form of these water fleas that track the decline in calcium levels. The bad news is that many lakes have already passed these critical thresholds."

The research was supported primarily by grants from the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada, as well as funding from the Ontario Ministry of the Environment, Environment Canada and Fisheries and Oceans Canada.

Also on the team are: Anna DeSellas, Kyle McIver, Kristina Arseneau, Brian Ginn and Brian Cumming (Queen's); Michelle Palmer (York); Michael Turner (Fisheries and Oceans Canada); Dean Jeffries (Environment Canada, National Water Research Institute); Bill Keller (Ontario Ministry of the Environment); and Russ Weeber and Don McNicol (Environment Canada).


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Queen's University. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

Queen's University. "Biologists Find New Environmental Threat In North American Lakes." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 November 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081127145141.htm>.
Queen's University. (2008, November 28). Biologists Find New Environmental Threat In North American Lakes. ScienceDaily. Retrieved March 6, 2015 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081127145141.htm
Queen's University. "Biologists Find New Environmental Threat In North American Lakes." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/11/081127145141.htm (accessed March 6, 2015).

Share This


More From ScienceDaily



More Earth & Climate News

Friday, March 6, 2015

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

China's Toxic Truth Goes Viral

China's Toxic Truth Goes Viral

Reuters - Business Video Online (Mar. 6, 2015) — Pollution in China has gone viral with a documentary highlighting the problems caused by major industries. But awareness may not be enough to clean up dirty producers. Jane Lanhee Lee reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

Lack of Snow Pushes Alaska Sled Dog Race North

AP (Mar. 6, 2015) — A shortage of snow has forced Alaska&apos;s Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race to move 300 miles north to Fairbanks. The ceremonial start through downtown Anchorage will take place this weekend, using snow stockpiled earlier this winter. (March 6) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Why Were El Niño Predictions So Far Off Base?

Why Were El Niño Predictions So Far Off Base?

Newsy (Mar. 5, 2015) — Weather agencies say an El Niño event is officially underway, but they called for it months ago and warned it would be way stronger than it is. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

Late Winter Storm Wreaks Havoc Across Eastern US

AP (Mar. 5, 2015) — A strong cold front moving across the eastern U.S. has dumped deep snow in some regions, creating hazardous conditions from Kentucky to New England. (March 5) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
 
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:  

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories

 

Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:  

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile iPhone Android Web
Follow Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins